2002, PG-13, 92 min. Directed by Tom Dey. Starring Frankie R. Faison, William Shatner, Mos Def, Rene Russo, Eddie Murphy, Robert De Niro.
REVIEWED By Kimberley Jones, Fri., March 22, 2002
It's a double-edged sword: The collective charisma of Robert De Niro, Eddie Murphy, and Rene Russo is the only reason to slap down eight bucks for this limp action/comedy, but then, it's difficult not to want to avert your eyes out of embarrassment for the trio. That charisma is all they have to coast on in Showtime, getting zero backup from the story, the dialogue, the direction -- hell, even their own performances. De Niro regurgitates his Meet the Parents role of sourpuss-turned-softie as LAPD Det. Mitch Preston, a 30-year veteran of the force and (oh, gawd) a “loose cannon.” When a drug bust of his is busted up by a nosy news camera, Preston puts a bullet in the camera's lens, setting off a PR nightmare back at the station. As a means of smoothing the situation over and getting some good press, the captain decides to let a producer (Russo) film Mitch 24/7 for a new reality TV series called Showtime. (No doubt this all made sense in the land of improbable plot twists.) But wait -- something's missing … bad cop … good cop! Enter Patrol Officer Trey Sellars (Murphy), a woefully inept policeman with acting aspirations. He plays for the camera, Mitch punches the camera: It's ratings gold. There just might have been a good idea in there about reality television and media distortion, but frankly, it's already been done to much better effect. In any case, Showtime is concerned with big-bang action set-pieces set off by comic interludes, certainly not any kind of social statement. That would be fine were the action set-pieces anything other than humdrum, the comic interludes anything other than routine yuks. And somebody please call a moratorium on William Shatner as “the kooky cameo” (here he plays himself recalling his days as TV's TJ Hooker … and therein lies the punchline). For all their individual charm, Murphy and De Niro don't have much chemistry, the kiss of death in a buddy pic, and Russo is reduced to playing a network shark in man-suits and a disturbing man-voice. Who woulda thunk those three could actually be yawn-inducing? Still, everybody knows yawns are contagious, and I'm pretty sure I saw them do it first.